1. Book tickets in Advance
This is so so important. If you don't read the rest of this blog, at least read this! You will want to book your tickets for the Colosseum and the Vatican in advance to avoid waiting in those catastrophically long lines. Rome is packed for the majority of the year, so getting in and out of these major sites is almost impossible without advanced tickets! Visit the official website to book Vatican tickets. Visit the official website to buy Colosseum tickets. They usually post tickets one month before the visit date so check often.
2. Booking tour
For the Colosseum, visit this website to book your tour. This is the official website and all tours are through and with official Colosseum guides. You will not wait in a line but be fast tracked into the entrance, plus, some tours offer you a chance to go to other areas not open for the general public. We took the underground and third ring tour which took us under the monument to see the chambers! It was awesome! We were in a group of about 10 with an English guide who was amazing. Be aware of the bag restrictions, they will have those on the website, they do not allow large purses and there is a metal detector at the security check point. The Vatican is a wild ride, you definitely want a guided tour or you may go a little nuts in there. We took the basic guided tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and it was worth every penny. You get a headset so you can hear your guide. They point out some amazing facts that I would have missed otherwise! Here is the website for official Vatican guided tours.
3. Choose the right taxi
If you google taxis in Rome, you will get some horror stories of visitors getting upcharged or "taken" so to speak. Don't worry to much about this, just remember to take the WHITE taxis. These are official and regulated by the government. They have flat rates for rides to and from the airport. There are several taxi stands around, you will see the white cars lined up. Do not take rides from people who approach you, just walk to the official pick up station and approach the first taxi in line. Be sure you know your address in Italian or have it written or typed on a piece of paper so you can easily communicate (I always print off all addresses and take with me on trips easy communication).
4. Taking a day trip to Florence
Florence is an easy train ride away and is a small, walkable town with a lot to offer. I would highly recommend going! If you want to see the art, you will need to book these tickets in advance also. Unlike the sites in Rome, you wont need a guided tour for these, you will just want to get your tickets ahead of time to avoid the long lines! Plus the train ride offers some lovely views of the Italian countryside.
5. Navigating the museums in Florence
The Uffizi is a sprawling museum that would take days to even walk through. I would suggest visiting their website and choosing the select view pieces you would like to see, write down the room number for each, and plan your visit that way. Another idea is to use a guide book like Rick Steves that has a walking tour of the Uffizi. These will go over the highlights with you if you don't have particular works in mind.
6. Learn just the basic language, to be polite
You will also get better treatment and service! This goes for a lot of major European cities.
Hello: Ciao (chou)
Thank you: Grazie (grah-tsee-eh)
Where is the restroom?: dov'è il bagno? (doh-veh eel bahn-yoh)
Excuse Me: Mi scusi. (mee skooh-zee)
How much?: Quanto? (kwanh-toh)
7. The public restrooms can be....rough
Many toilets in restaurants and even museums do not have a toilet seat. This comes as a surprise to many visitors! Smaller restaurants and bars often do not have toilet paper or soap. To avoid some awkward moments, be prepared with some travel packs of Kleenex and hand sanitizer.